Tuesday, May 31, 2005
The other reason Netflix doesn't work for us is because we are stunningly lazy.
I just tried to log onto our Netflix account to see how long we have actually had Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I can't because I've forgotten our password. It's been that long. I think about three months. We've also had Blues Talks and a compilation of Three Stooges episodes, but at least they've been watched, and watched, and watched again. Eternal Sunshine has just been sitting there on top of the television in its little Netflix envelope, rebuking us.
It's hard for us to watch a movie. There are all those nights that S works. Then there are the nights that he's home but crashes because he worked a back-to-back (a night shift--remember that "night" means 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.--followed by a day shift--which would be 7 a.m to 5 p.m.--and don't forget to factor in the half hour commute each way). There are the nights that I have to work (luckily less frequent these days). There are the nights when we have to watch the Red Sox. There are the nights I just have to read my book, which actually have been frequent lately, as I've been reading some great books.
But the bottom line is that we suck. I mean, as my friend S would say, what kind of people keep Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for three months, which means they actually could have bought the movie FOUR TIMES for the money they spent renting it?
You knew this was all leading up to the announcement that last night we finally watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
It was fine.
I mean, there was no way it could have lived up to three months of anticipation. But really, it was fine.
For the first ten minutes, I thought it was just another wacky-girl-spices-up-the-life-of-straight-boy flick.
Then I realized it was Desperately Seeks Susan meets The Time-Traveler's Wife. Come on, don't you think Kate Winslet looks like Madonna?
At the end, though, after Kirsten Dunst discovered what had happened, it did get good.
In fact, it kind of reminded me of the experience of watching Nashville, which is one of my favorite movies ever, but every time I watch it, for most of the movie I wonder why I think it's so great, and then in the last half hour, at the concert, it all comes together and I remember why it is so great. Not that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is anything like Nashville or anywhere near as great as Nashville, just that it comes together in the end and the end makes it better than it was.
But now that that's taken care of, we'll be cancelling our Netflix subscription.
Monday, May 30, 2005
Dulce Et Decorum EstBent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
--Wilfred Owen, 1917
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Saturday, May 28, 2005
The minor things are another story. Actually, I shouldn't call them minor, because some of them are fairly major. What I mean are the things that I amaze myself for doing, that I have no natural aptitude or inclination for, that I struggle to accomplish, and that I don't do particularly well, but that I manage to do. In this category I would put my two marathons (and yes, I'll even tell you how fast: 4:17 for the one I ran when I was 30 and 4:03 for the one just before I turned 40), the ponchos I knit for the girls, and my superior parallel parking skills. No, actually, the parallel parking is in another category: things I am innately good at that are, in fact, minor in the scheme of things, and thus that I have no problem telling you about.
At any rate, this is all prelude for boasting that last night I made M a jeans skirt! You remember the ones from the 70s where you (or they--certainly not me) cut the inside seams of your jeans and sewed them to a triangle of cloth in the middle to make a skirt? Well, M had this great pair of velveteen jeans that were navy on top and then faded down to a kind of sky blue, a sort of Prada effect (sorry, can't find a good link--Mom, it's a designer who did a lot of tie-dye last year). Then she stepped on the hem and ripped the bottom of one leg. I sewed up the rip, but they ripped again and she refused to wear them.
So I decided to make a skirt. I cut the legs off at the knee, cut the inside seams, and used the sky blue bottoms of the legs for the triangle. Lots of pinning and repinning. Lots of tiny stitches (no sewing machine, they scare me). Up very late. And, finally, skirt!!
Aren't you impressed?
Now E wants one...
Friday, May 27, 2005
Much more importantly, however, the whole family shares a great affection for Lindsay's movies, in particular Freaky Friday and The Parent Trap (yes, we know, they're remakes, but Lindsay's Freaky Friday is, sorry, better than Jody's, and we've watched the original Parent Trap just as many times as the remake, and we like them both, so there) (and, no, I have not let them see Mean Girls, which frankly did not do much for me).
Let's face it, folks, Lindsay can act. Twins brought up in London and California? Channeling Jamie Leigh Curtis? She has talent. And as importantly, for this feminist mom, those movies, at least, are truly GIRL-friendly. By this I mean, that they are about empowering girls and they are appropriate for girls. (At this point I will not digress into Hilary Duff, but I could.)
(OK, brief Hilary Duff digression: The Lizzie Maguire Movie--surprisingly girl-friendly, especially at the end where the two girls, both played by Hilary, gang up on the boy who has scammed them both and Lizzie ends up singing a rocking solo on the stage where she was supposed to duet with said lame boy; A Cinderella Story--oh god, just shoot me and send me to recuperate at the rest home for obsolete feminist moms; Raise Your Voice--eh, I'd rather watch Fame, and what's with the sick brother/sister videocam thing?).
But this is about Lindsay. To recap: Lindsay can act, and Lindsay makes girl-friendly movies. In other words, Lindsay makes life a little easier for the feminist mom forced to endure her daughter's taste in pre-teen chick flicks, even if said mom is fully aware of real-life Lindsay's bad girl antics.
But now, Lindsay, we have a problem. For the final thing in Lindsay's favor was always her body. Which is to say, the fact that she actually had a body. Flesh. Round cheeks, legs, a butt, even some belly. This is good, people, we like this, those of us who want positive role models for young girls.
Now, however, Lindsay seems to be on a campaign to eliminate as much of her body as possible. She's a stick. I've tried to find a direct link to the picture of her in the red dress, but this is all I could come up with (scroll down). She looks terrible--and at least 15 years older than she really is.
OK, now I feel like I am about to get into logical difficulties, because the fact is that real-life Lindsay is a terrible role model for young girls, and I seem not to care about that. Why? Because young girls, at least my young girls, have no idea about real-life Lindsay's real life (for that matter, I have no real idea about her real life). But they do see pictures of her plastered across the checkout counter. And I still cling to the fantasy that...well, what AM I clinging to? The idea that Lindsay gives a shit what my daughters think of her? I know better than that. The idea that a movie star might actually be able to resist Hollywood's anorexic hegemony? Perhaps. The idea that pop culture has feminist possibilities? Yeah, maybe. The idea that I can continue to protect my daughters from the contagion of negative body image and eating disorders? Definitely.
I don't know...basically I just want Lindsay to have a nice big ice cream sundae, relax, and go make some more movies that my kids and I can both enjoy.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
1) Sit on your chair while you eat.
2) Use your fork, not your fingers.
3) Do not talk with your mouth full.
How hard can it be? Really? Look at me. I do all three--at once. See? I'm sitting on my chair, I'm putting the food in my mouth with a fork, then I'm chewing it all up before I speak. You can do it too, really, you can.
And if you did, just imagine how much more pleasant dinner would be, WITHOUT ME CONSTANTLY NAGGING YOU TO SIT IN YOUR CHAIR, USE YOUR FORK, AND NOT TALK WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL.
[In more pleasant meal-time news, E likes pesto!!!]
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I do have two significant flaws, however. One is that I talk too much. I'm working on that one, and my tendency to over-talk is somewhat balanced by the fact that I am also a good listener. The other problem is proving more intractable. There are some people, really just a few, in fact I can only think of three, who I simply cannot work with. I try and I try, I bite my tongue, I resolve to just get along, but inevitably, once I get into this situation, sparks fly and heads butt, no matter what I do.
Right now I'm working on a quite big, quite important project with one of these people (another has been out of my life for ten years, and I have successfully minimized working contact and achieved collegial cordiality with the third).
I must resort to metaphor to describe how this person and I interact. Forget Mars and Venus: he is on Pluto and I live in a completely different solar system. He speaks Urdu and I speak Pig Latin. I will look out the window, see a black sky, driving rain, and trees bent double by the wind, and I will say, "My, that's quite a storm." He will look out the exact same window at the exact same time and he will say, "Oh, what a beautiful sunny day."
I'm full of self-doubt. When he says that it's a sunny day, I figure I must be missing something, I must be looking from a bad angle, there's no way he could be so wrong, so maybe he's right and I'm wrong. Then I look out the window to check, and there are the exact same rain and clouds and wind (remember, this is a metaphor).
Then there are the times, non-metaphorical, when we will be in a meeting discussing how to solve a problem. There will be general consensus for Solution A. He will suggest Solution B, which is obviously not the way to go. I will try to restrain myself, but eventually, to move the discussion forward, I will need to point out why Solution B is not the way to go. Everyone will agree, and we will leave the meeting decided upon Solution A. The next day, we will receive an email from him asking how we are going to proceed on Solution B. Or, worse, he will unilaterally take a step that starts us on the path to Solution B, and not even realize he has done it.
It's driving me nuts. Basically, when it comes down to it, at heart, to tell the truth, I think he's an idiot. S thinks he's a blithering idiot and should be fired. But that's not going to happen, and I'm going to have to deal with him for a long time.
Maybe I should take up yoga again. Or Thorazine. Something. Because banging out irate responses to his emails is going to break a finger one of these days. And trying to hold rational conversations with him might burst a blood vessel.
I'm trying. I'm really, really trying. I want to be a good, patient, responsive, supportive person. But mainly I just want to rip his face off and stamp on it--oh my god, did I really just write that? I don't want to do that at all. I just want him to GO AWAY.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Happy Birthday sweetie! I love you for always and forever!
[And you know, M loves to read about herself in the blog, and she would so so love it if she went to read her happy birthday post in the blog and found lots of happy birthday wishes in the comments...]
[How's that for shameless comment mongering?!]
Monday, May 23, 2005
Is she stupid, spineless, or fully aware that the policies she must support to earn her keep are bullshit? I'm not quite sure which would be worse.
That's all true, but what do assessment tests really measure, other than an ability to memorize for tests?
You hear about that kind of thing. With respect to my own children, I do think people have to have a fluency with facts. You need to know what four times four is.
What do you make of the current controversy in Kansas over whether creationism should be taught along with evolution?
I can tell you that in Texas we did go through this issue, when Bush was governor and I was working for him. We ended up -- the curriculum says basically that both points of view are taught from a factual basis.
How can creationism be taught from a factual basis? Are you implying that events in the Bible should be taught in the public schools as literal history?
I'm not implying anything. I'm just saying that my recollection from my Texas days is that both points of view were presented.Do you think children should be allowed to watch television during the week?
You mean at school?
No, at home.
The president says, and I completely agree, to read as much as you watch TV. If you watch TV for an hour, then you read for an hour.
Remember last year when we had to cancel M's birthday because she was sick, and then we had to reschedule it on Memorial Day weekend when most people couldn't come? Well, it seemed like we were headed for the second birthday debacle in a row when it started to pour at 1:15. Luckily, like last year, everything worked out just fine. Uproariously, in fact.
We got the whole gang this time. Nine 3rd grade girls, one 3rd grade boy, one boy who can't be called third grade because he is homeschooled but is essentially of the same ilk, and E and her best friend A who were a bit shell-shocked by the whole thing. Oh, and I can't forget the world's cutest toddler who spent most of the party trying to go places she wasn't supposed to--like up the front stairs or on top of a picture some big kids were trying to draw.
The noise, my god, the noise.
M wanted to have the party at home, which was good, and as we were casting around for an activity, we came up with a scavenger hunt, which is what the big girls on the block used to do for their birthdays, but now they are too big. Very exciting for M to be as big as they used to be. I planned the scavenger hunt, making M completely crazy by refusing to tell her anything about it. I put them in carefully socially-balanced groups with a G Street girl in each group. I did let M consult on the groups and she was very judicious: she only asked that I switch the difficult girl I'd put in her group for the other difficult girl, which was fine.
At 2 they started arriving and squealing on the porch. By then it was down to a drizzle and I asked them if they wanted to play an outside game and there was a general shriek of approbation. We sent the neighbors home to get all their raincoats and umbrellas, and we collected all of ours. Everyone who wanted to be was covered, but really it was just a drizzle and they were fine.
When everyone had arrived, I gathered them in the living room and my, how easily those old camp counselor skills return. I whispered that I wouldn't be able to explain the game to them till they were quiet, and eventually they realized that I was talking and quieted down. Then I asked if they wanted to do a scavenger hunt, and the room exploded in glee. Phew. I explained the rules (boundaries were G Street from the corner to S's house, when they rang a doorbell they had to politely ask if people were willing to help them, they could only get three things from each house, and they had to include everyone in the group). They had to name their group, make up a song or skit about their group, draw a picture of their group, and collect a variety of objects including ten different leaves, a lemon or lime, a diaper, a dog treat, a stick longer than your arm, and a bunch more.
Off they went, and we grownups and the toddler were left in peace. Except then I realized that I had no prizes, so I quickly cut long strips of paper and wrote "M's Birthday Scavenger Hunt 5/22/05" on one side to use as ribbons. They terrorized the neighborhood for about 45 minutes, and then came back to exhibit their loot. I gave lots of prizes, writing them on the other side of my ribbons: First Team Finished, Best Baby (the aforementioned toddler), Best Lemon (the biggest), Best Lime (the only), Best Diaper (the biggest again--size counted in this game), Best Picture (the only group that used the markers I'd carefully assembled for them--the others just used pencil), etc. I carefully balanced my ribbons so that each group received approximately the same number because I'm like that. It was funny, though, how anxious and competitive some of them got. There was lots more squealing, or perhaps I should call it screeching.
Then we had cake, ice cream, and lemonade, limeade, and pink lemonade (they were 3 for $4.00 at the supermarket). Then we had some squealing, screeching, and chasing. Then we had presents: mainly books, journals, address books, stationery, and Red State Capital City Suburb mementos. When we finished the presents, it was 3:55 and I shooed them outside where they screeched some more, chased each other, received their party favors (jars of bubbles that M, E and I had decorated with stickers), blew bubbles, and were scooped up by their respective parents. Phew.
M was wiped out, so I took her to the cafe for some peace and quiet. She ate a bagel and read some of her new books. I read the Sunday Times. S stayed home and made dinner while E made an art project. The End.
P.S. Really it was one of our most successful birthday parties ever.
Also saw the preview for the infamous Angelina/Brad vehicle Mr. and Mrs. Smith and, you know, it kind of looked good too. I swore off action movies after Face/Off. Yeah, I did. I'm ok with relevant violence, but I just decided I was over gratuitous violence. But I might just go see this one.
Shoot, there was another preview too, one that did not impress, in fact, did not impress enough that I've now forgotten what it was. Oh well.
And the movie? Monster-in-Law. I know. What was I thinking? I just like romantic comedies, I can't help it. It really was pretty lame, though, especially the romantic part with J. Lo and the guy. But Jane Fonda and Wanda Sykes were quite hilarious in the comedy part. And Jane looked both her age and damn good. So not a total waste of an early evening.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
My first response is the dubious personal retort: I don't know a single eight year old who has a television in his or her bedroom, and I know a lot of eight year olds. Just checked with M, who knows more eight year olds than I do, and she can't think of one who has their own television.
More importantly, however, I think there's a real methodological problem in looking only at products and ignoring what kids do with those products, not to mention the actual effects those products have on kids. I don't like Bratz--I think they're trashy and ugly and their name valorizes, well, brattiness. I don't let my kids buy them. But lots of their friends have them, and all the girls love them. Why? Because they're trendy and hip. What do they do with them? They put outfits on them. They take the outfits off. They put new outfits on them. Just like they do with Barbie and Groovy Girls and American Girl dolls. Sometimes they play school, sometimes they play rock star. They never play "Let's go hang out on the street corner and pick up guys," even though that's about all a Bratz doll looks good for. They are DOLLS, and kids, at least, know this.
Let's talk about clothes. There's a big outcry about low-cut jeans and midriff-baring shirts for tweens. My kids wear low-cut jeans and midriff-baring shirts all the time. They're hip and they're comfortable. What do they do in their low-cut jeans and midriff-baring shirts? They ride their bikes, they go out for ice cream, they jump rope on the front sidewalk, they watch Hilary Duff DVDS. They don't wander around looking for boys who might be impressed by their hot outfits. So they're showing a few inches of belly--what's the big deal? Is it the kids who are sexualized, or is the problem the adults who think a child's belly is obscene?
On the other hand, I don't let my kids wear the two-inch heels that seem to be all the rage for pre-teens. Why? Because they're not safe and they won't be able to run around. I hate seeing a little girl hobbling around in heels, but what always seems most ridiculous is a little girl on the jungle gym in high heels. They're still little girls, and most of them are still doing little girl things, regardless of what they're wearing.
I've argued about this with people before. I agree that our culture is more sexualized than it was, and maybe my sample is way skewed. As I've said before, we're in the suburbs, we're in middle America, and most of the people in our community are white, though they are very class-diverse. But I do think that simply talking to "experts" and reading products as cultural indicators is not enough. You need to talk to real kids and observe what they're really doing, and not enough people seem willing to do that.
[M read this and she agrees with me, though she would offer a more nuanced distinction between Bratz, Barbies, Groovy Girls and American Girl dolls, if this were her blog.]
[And if "expert" Diane Levin really believes the "apparently growing popularity of oral sex" is due to Bratz and Desperate Housewives, she 1) should talk to people who were teenagers in the 60s and 70s about how much oral sex they were actually having, and 2) might want to look at issues like AIDS, abstinence education, and teen pregnancy rates which, it seems to me, have a much more significant effect, whether bad or good, on teen sexual practices.]
Saturday, May 21, 2005
He's pretty good on Yoda too:
Also, while we're here, what's with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. "I hope right you are." Break me a fucking give.
You can read the rest here.
Note: This is about applauding Anthony Lane, not trashing Star Wars about which, truly, I have no opinion.
Friday, May 20, 2005
If there still were such things as a “dance cards”---theirs would be full. As it is, these women are in demand by top East Coast Big City choreographers like Choreographer A and Choreographer B. This might not be surprising if they weren’t all seniors. The performance this past week, called “There’s a Dance in the Ol’ Dame Yet” is sponsored by Local Dance Company for “post-professional dancers aged 55-85.”
This particular performance kicked off a series of concerts at the East Coast Big City Dance Complex called “Tuesdays at Noon.” The interconnected pieces these women performed combined dance, improv, theater and a wee bit of performance art (but not enough to be scary).
They acted up a storm with lawn chairs as props. They danced with, around, under and in the chairs and they each told us their own story. What stories they were, as elegant and diverse ---and funny--- as the choreography (by Choreographer C and B and company). The performance title comes from dynamo Older Dancer. Becca's Mom's Best Friend always wanted to “change the world” and now she does, one dance at a time. This was Becca's Mom's first performance (if you don’t count junior high school) although she’s no wallflower where community activism is concerned. The stories amaze. The energy is infectious. The spirit feels like the women’s movement all over again. And when one man in the audience asked if they’d take him under their wing, it was a resounding YES.Go, Mom!
The only time I'd actually been to Small Town was when I was training for the marathon two years ago and my 20 mile route took me through it. It's your basic one-horse town: a block of Main Street that is really just a slowdown on the county road, a few side streets with houses, a post office, a school, a church, a store, and, now, this pizza place. M, E, and I tried to go last Saturday night, but there was an hour wait. In Small Town! We were too hungry to stay, but decided we had to come back on S's next night home.
So we went the other night, and it was great. All they serve is caesar salad, pizza, and crepes for dessert. There's a high tin ceiling painted light green, assorted chairs and tables with matching flowered vinyl tablecloths, walls covered with bad art and statues and tins and knick-knacks, toys kids can play with and games and books and old Life magazines. The caesar salad is perfect, the pizza is delicious, the crepes were a bit sweet for me but devoured by everyone else. And, best of all, from the restaurant business perspective, over the hour or so we were there, every table filled, in the middle of the week, in Small Town.
We spend a lot of time thinking about why restaurants succeed or fail. S has been involved in wildly successful restaurants and catastrophes, including catastrophes with some great food. They say it's location, location, location, but this place has nothing in the way of location. Nada. Zero. Zip. It does have great food, though we know that isn't enough, and excellent atmosphere, which helps a lot. When S took over the restaurant in Red State Capital City Suburb, it was an aesthetic and atmospheric sinkhole. He did the best he could to improve things, but there was only so much he could do in the face of architectural and financial constraints. It definitely was an issue.
As S pointed out, this place also has a great business plan. Two people can run the kitchen--one to do pizzas and the other to do salad, crepes, and dishes. There are only six tables, so just one server. Rent is low because it's Small Town, food and equipment costs are low because they only serve three things, and labor is low. What more could you ask?
You could ask for the one thing S will never have: a cost-free partner. The husband was manning the oven and the wife was womanning the tables. She was great: friendly, helpful, personable, patient, exactly the kind of restaurant wife an independent chef needs, exactly the kind of restaurant wife I'll never be, for my sole three months of restaurant work, way back in 1990, were not a success, and while I love to eat in restaurants and talk about restaurants and read about restaurants and plan restaurants, I cannot bear even the thought of ever working in a restaurant again. Poor S.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
First she announced that she needed desks. I suggested shoe boxes, of which we have a plethora. She readily agreed, but said she needed lots, as she had ten students. I gave her four and said they could share. She lined up nine stuffed animals and one doll in front of the row of shoeboxes. Then she announced that she needed a bigger desk since she was the teacher. I suggested the plastic crate that holds the Legos. She thought that was a brilliant idea and placed it in front of the line of shoebox desks.
Then she didn't need me any more. She collected various items and lectured and instructed. I vaguely heard her as I went about my business. The school stayed up for two days in the middle of the living room, and she played with it several times.
Last night we were picking up the house. E was tired and fussy and had already helped clean her room and the sunroom, so when S told her to clean up the school, I said I'd do it. I put the students away in the stuffed animal basket in her room, and then I went to collect the shoeboxes. Opening one to put away some pieces of shoe-related cardboard, I discovered crayons and small pieces of paper, some written on, some not. All the other boxes had crayons and pieces of paper too. She'd really made them into desks.
Somehow this struck me as at once immensely charming and heartbreaking.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
I have a confession to make. It's a tough one, but I feel you have a right to know. I just hope you don't think any less of me. Deep breath. OK, here goes.
Everyone knows that Nigella is my main squeeze. She's my girl. But lately, well, it's true, lately I've been straying. Cheating, you might even call it. Yes, I've been hooking up with Ruth.
Ruth and I actually go way back. Not as far back as Berkeley or L.A., but when she arrived in New York, I sat up and took notice. She wove narrative into her descriptions of food, service, and decor. She escaped Manhattan and headed for Korean barbeque joints in Queens. She raved, she razzed, she made restaurant reviewing exciting. She was my girl.
I read Tender at the Bone in the hammock on the wrap-around porch of the most beautiful house in the most beautiful valley in the White Mountains. I must confess, since this is a confessional kind of post, that I stole the book because I hadn't finished it when we had to leave. I'd plucked it off the eclectically well-stocked bookshelves, but I knew the woman living in the house wouldn't miss it--she was the hemp underwear type, not the truffle oil type. Though then again, if hemp underwear had been around during Ruth's Berkeley days, I bet she would have worn it.
I liked Tender at the Bone a lot. It had wacky New York family, organic Berkeley hippies, and Alice (it does have Alice, doesn't it? my purloined copy is at the moment inaccessible and memory fades). Comfort Me with Apples didn't do it for me, though. Ruth moved to L.A. and got kind of name-droppy and egotistical and eventually self-pitying. Eh.
Then she left the New York Times and moved to Gourmet and things got pretty bad between us. S and I had subscribed to Gourmet for years because it was hard-core food. When Ruth took over, it suddenly became fluffy lifestyle: look at the beautiful people having a beautiful party for their beautiful friends in their beautiful house full of beautiful appliances--oh, and they're eating some food too. Uh, no thank you. We switched to Bon Appetit when we got some kind of a subscription deal, and then the food magazines just started taking up too much space (because, you know, you have to save them all in case some day you might be inspired to go back to them and actually cook some of the recipes), so we gave them all up, though sometimes we're still tempted to subscribe to Cook's Illustrated, especially when we go to my aunt's house and read the back issues stacked up in her bathroom.
But Ruth, you're pleading, get back to Ruth, tell us what's going on.
What's going on is The Gourmet Cookbook. J ordered a copy for her and a copy for us before it even came out. It's bigger than Joy or Julia. It leaps capital letters in a single bound (old Electric Company joke, anyone?). It's the sine qua non and the ne plus ultra of the every-recipe-you-could-want generalist cookbook. If it were a man, it would be sponge-worthy (Seinfeld joke, mom, don't worry about it) (why am I flagging all my allusions? does this signal a lack of trust in my erudite readers?).
So, yeah, I've gone there. Not to the cake section--oh no, I wouldn't do that to Nigella. But to a few soups, maybe some pasta sauces, garlic bread (yeah, garlic bread--you wanna make something of it? sometimes I like to check out a recipe for those things I usually just make without even thinking about it--maybe actually have some proportions for my ingredients--and you know, that was some damn good garlic bread). I'm even contemplating a souffle.
It's been good. I've been happy. Nigella is still an important part of my life--I made another Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake just the other day. But sometimes a girl needs a change. And Ruth's new book about her years at the Times just came out. I'm on the list for it at the library. Maybe I'll read it with a nice slice of chocolate cake.
(S likes her too. Menage a trois?)
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Anyway, this morning I checked my stats and they had spiked again, which seemed odd, given that everyone has probably read that Bitch Ph.D. post. This time, however, it's all Google and Yahoo searches for Guinness Chocolate Cake. In general, my major search terms are Nigella cakes, but I'm wondering why the sudden surge of interest. Was Guinness Chocolate Cake featured on the Food Network last night? Did someone choke on a Guinness Chocolate Cake somewhere? Is Nigella touring and I never heard about it?
Someone, please, enlighten me.
At that point, S and I were a year into our sojourn in the twilight zone of secondary infertility--a realm I never even knew existed until we entered it. When we first decided to have a baby, I got pregnant immediately, had a miscarriage, and then got pregnant immediately with M. When we decided to have another baby, I assumed the same thing would happen, hopefully without the miscarriage. It didn't.
A year later, I was past denial and settled in depression. We were pretty sure that we weren't going to go high-tech with treatments (not that there's anything wrong with high-tech treatments, they just weren't for us at that point), but really we had no plan beyond that. We were a family that desperately wanted another baby and here was a baby who desperately needed a family.
Ultimately (obviously), we decided not to do it. If it had been a year later, I'm quite sure we would have, but at that point we were so confused and depressed and overwhelmed, and we just weren't ready to make the decision to adopt him and forego another biological child (we knew we only wanted two children). That turned out to be a good thing for us, as a year later I did get pregnant, we ended up with E, and a world without E would have been sorely lacking (not just for us, but for all of you, as the general consensus is that she will be the first woman president, unless her sister gets there first).
But I wonder how it turned out for him. There was a nasty divorce and we are no longer in contact with that branch of the family (they were step-family, but at the time that didn't matter). His grandparents adopted him, but I heard recently that his grandmother has lung cancer. I don't know how his mom is. I'm not optimistic about her. But I hope things work out for him.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Close friends and attentive readers will recall that I gave up my long-term People magazine subscription so as not to subject my growing daughters to a ceaseless barrage of articles about diets and plastic surgery. But major events like Kenny and Renee's wedding still inspire surreptitious supermarket checkout line purchases (except that now I sometimes choose Star instead of People--more pictures, racier gossip, and none of that boring human interest stuff).
At any rate, here are my Thoughts Upon Reading This Week's People Magazine:
Jude Law remains one of the handsomest men on the planet.
Julie Mars, whom I've never heard of, has written a book called A Month of Sundays, blurbed thus: The death of her adored older sister led Mars to write a moving (but never mawkish) account of her own search for spiritual sustenance. Has anyone noticed that Justine Picardie already wrote that book after the death of her adored older sister, Ruth?
Laci is still dead. Scott is still on death row. Why on earth is People still pimping this story, on the cover to boot?
Peggy Lipton: another example of a woman who looked both older and better at 30 than she does at 58.
Lesley Ann Warren: yet another, though she claims she hasn't had plastic surgery and it's because of a "machine that stimulates face muscles electrically," to which we say (all together now) "yeah, right." (Does anyone else remember Lesley Ann Warren in The Great Train Robbery, one of the coolest movies ever?) (OK, I totally suck--thanks to IMDB I can humiliate myself and point out that it was Lesley Anne Down, not Lesley Ann Warren, in The Great Train Robbery.) ( But it was still a great movie.) (Maybe that's why I think Lesley Ann Warren used to look better--because Lesley Anne Down was so incredibly hot in The Great Train Robbery.) (More from IMDB: I'd forgotten that Lesley Anne Down was in Upstairs Downstairs too. Be still my beating heart.)
Does the world really need a Danny Bonaduce reality show?
I think I'm starting to feel better about the possibility of Brad and Angelina, though I'd feel even better if Jen could find someone I approved of.
Am I the only person who gave up on Star Wars after the first three movies?
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Her mother, alas, thinks it's her job to warn people against her daughter. She tried to warn me. I told her I liked her daughter and would try to help her. She warned F's parents, who apparently acted much as I did for a while, but then--didn't.
One of the defining features of my life has been the essential knowledge that wherever I was, whatever trouble I got into, if I called my father, he would come and get me (you've been infinitely supportive too, Mom, but when it comes to plucking me off a Nepali mountaintop, somehow Daddy always came to mind). I've disagreed with my parents, fought with my parents, and, I'm quite sure, been disapproved of by my parents, but I always knew that my parents were there for me, no matter what. In turn, I know I will always be there for my parents: right now my sister and I disapprove of some of the choices my dad is making, but if the phone rings and he says he needs me, I'll be on the next plane.
So I just profoundly do not get parents who don't support their children.
As soon as I write that sentence, I start to nuance it. I've seen the tragedy of parents who were unable to support their children through no fault of their own; I realize that the ability to get on a plane and rescue a child presumes a certain financial capacity; I know there are plenty of parents who don't support their children; I think of a relative who was a junkie and how the rest of the family begged her parents to stop supporting her.
But that relative actually puts my point into sharper focus. We wanted her parents to stop giving her money because she was spending the money on drugs; we never wanted them to stop loving her. When she called me up and told me she was marrying her boyfriend in the judge's office because that was the only way they could have conjugal visits once he was sentenced and went to prison, I tried my damndest to talk her out of it. I called her mother, even though I'd promised not to. I desperately researched prison policies. But then, when she refused to budge, I put on a nice dress, bought her a bouquet of flowers, drove her to court, met the boyfriend in his orange jumpsuit, watched the guard take off the handcuffs, witnessed the marriage, and took her out to lunch, while he went back to his cell. There were lots of things I wouldn't do for her, but this I could do, so I did.
I don't know how I got to this relative--I planned to write about a dear friend who died of AIDS in 1992 (M is named after him, in part), and how devastating it was to watch him try and try again to make contact with his parents, and then finally accept the fact that to them he was already dead, and his friends were now his family.
Perhaps there are things my children could do that would make me stop loving and supporting them, but, honestly, I can't imagine what they would be. I don't know how I would respond if they committed terrible crimes; I'm sure I would condemn the crimes, but I would think that in that situation they would need me to love them even more, and I hope that I would. But to abandon my own daughter because she dated another girl? That is just inconceivable to me, and so so tragic.
Friday, May 13, 2005
I'm not sure words can express my love for Jonathan Richman. We used to see him in Berkeley at the Starry Plough, and then we saw him at Slim's, I think, and every time we see him in Red State Capital City I feel better. I love his striped shirt, and his guitar, and his dorky dancing. I love how his songs limn the landscapes of my youth. I love that he pre-punked punk and now lives up in the Sierra foothills amongst the aging hippies. I love that he laments the death of parties and rhymes Picasso and asshole. I even love how he sits in that tree in There's Something About Mary.
Once at the Starry Plough, I was standing right in front by the stage, and he stared straight into my eyes for the whole set with that hang dog "I would be the best boyfriend you ever broke up with" look. I was ready to go backstage and offer him every inch of my body, but I thought S wouldn't be so happy about that. I wasn't imagining it, either, because my step-brother was way in the back of the room, and at the end of the set he said, "What was with you and Jonathan? He was just staring at you the whole night!"
Then there's Bad News Hughes. Like I always say, he just makes me laugh.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Anyway, all I recall now is the gist which involved E insisting that only boys can make computers because computers are hard to make (this despite me pointing out that our friend P, who is a woman, though I must admit I called her a girl, used to work in a factory making computers).
Also, she asked me what those wiggly lines on my forehead were and why she didn't have any.
Way to endear yourself to your aging feminist mother, kid!
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
He has a crush on me too, I'm quite sure. I think it's harder for him than it is for me.
What I like, though, about having a crush, is the thrill it adds to daily life. Sometimes I think I might see him, and then I have to decide whether to take additional steps that might make seeing him more likely. Sometimes I do; sometimes I don't. It's a bit disappointing when I think I might see him and then I don't. It feels quite triumphant when I think I might see him and then I do.
Sometimes he just shows up, and I get all excited, but I can't show it, because we can't admit our crushes. We have to play calm, cool, and collected. I think I do a better job than he does, but maybe I'm deceiving myself. Certainly he does not do a very good job.
Yesterday I drove downtown to do an errand and as I was waiting to turn left, he turned right onto the street I was on from the street I was turning into. I didn't think he saw me, but I got all excited. Five minutes later, as I was driving home, there he was again, driving the other way. This time he saw me and honked. I smiled, waved, and kept going. Then I wondered if he had turned around so he could see me. Then I wondered if I should have stopped and talked to him. This crush thing can take a lot of mental energy.
[Of course S knows. In fact, he's the one who told me it was ok to blog about it.]
Cheery blogging for a cheery world...
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Monday, May 09, 2005
If I entered my mom in a Mother of the Year Contest she would probably win. I think she would win because she takes my sister and me to lots of fun places. Also she would win because she has lots of cool accomplishments like [accomplishments omitted to preserve privacy]. Last, my mom would win because she's an overall great mom. That's what I would tell the judges.
My mom would compete against all mothers at [M's] School. Her prize would be free maids.
My mom makes my lunch and dinner,
Does my laundry,
Helps clean my room.
She's barely ever mad
But always listens.
My favorite thing is the last two lines of the poem. In fact, I get mad all the time, but it's nice to know that when push comes to shove (or the teacher is looking over her shoulder), that's not what she thinks about.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
I maintained the anti-Mother's Day stance for a few years into my own maternity, but then came the hegemony of babysitters, preschool, and now public school, where from May 1 on, the efforts of small children seem wholly devoted to producing cards and baubles with which to appreciate their mothers. And now I have succumbed. I don't even feebly whisper "but we don't celebrate Mother's Day..." It's inescapable. Besides, it makes the children so happy. Especially when they get to have secrets from me.
So this morning, when M and I came back from our weekly Sunday morning swim practice (M)/run (me)/buy the New York Times (us) expedition, I had to wait on the porch till they were ready. Then both girls ushered me in to a kitchen table that held cinnamon biscuits (my request), flowers (picked out by E on a secret Sunday morning expedition with S), a card from E that said "DEAR MOM, I HOPE YOU HAVE A FUN MOTHER'S DAY" (apparently S wrote out the words and E copied them in about three minutes), a paper box M made in school with a different line about me on each side (an interesting thing about me is that I've been to more than ten countries; something I do is take care of M and E) except for the side where she'd drawn a picture of me in my pink shirt and lipstick (her favorite look), and inside the box four chocolate kisses (two dark chocolate and two caramel, she specified) and Fimo earrings she'd made herself. And M says she has a present for me for every meal.
So Happy Mother's Day Grandma and Grammy! And I'm sorry I can't share my chocolate kisses with you, but M and E already ate them.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
I've been thinking about the ridiculous numbers of people I know who are taking Wellbutrin, Paxil, Prozac, etc. Partly it's medical fashion, of course. A college student I know went to the clinic because he'd been feeling down. The doctor, whom he'd never met, administered a test, scored it, told him he was depressed, gave him a Wellbutrin prescription, and sent him on his way. Nice.
On the other hand, it seems like the times are simply depressing. If you don't have a great built-in endorphin system, a naturally cheery disposition, or simply a stoic ability to persevere, just the newspaper can be enough to send you down into the abyss. I guess it's not suprising that so many people need help just to make it from one day to the next.
Friday, May 06, 2005
[And in election news, our London district (do they call them districts in England?), Hornsey and Wood Green, went Lib Dem. Not surprisingly.]
Thursday, May 05, 2005
I wish Tony Blair had lived up to his potential. Just like I wished Bill Clinton had lived up to his...
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Partly this is because I screwed up: I didn't realize that after I got the signature notarized at the Suburb County Courthouse, I had to get it certified. So I showed up at the Department of State, and started to get angry that they wouldn't give me the apostille, but then I quickly realized that it was my fault (I had skipped a line of my extremely detailed instructions), so I was nice, especially because the woman at the Department of State so nicely explained to me how to get notarized again (bank), certified (City County Courthouse), and apostilled (back to the Department of State). I was even nice to the meter maid who was printing out my parking ticket as I sprinted back to my car at the City County Courthouse. It wasn't her fault that once you hit print, the ticket cannot be rescinded.
I was not nice to the collection of people who were PRAYING right inside the City County Courthouse. Yes, PRAYING. Inside the courthouse. Apparently it was some National Day of Prayer. Apparently right inside the City County Courthouse, between the door and the metal detector, is public property. Apparently you are thus allowed to stand there with a big sign that says National Day of Prayer and PRAY very loudly, as if you are in CHURCH, at all the people who are coming and going on their courthouse business, which would be STATE business, as it were, metaphorically speaking, though not quite such state business as one might conduct, say, at the Department of State.
Uh, separation? Of church and state? Last time I checked, it was still nominally the law. Wasn't it?
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
[Yes, I have so much to do today that I can barely breathe, hence the compulsive blogging.]
Way to go, Amber!
Edited to add: This story might make a little more sense if you know that Amber is white and A is Chinese.
But then I thought about other people who don't do their jobs in service of what they believe is right. The first thing that came to mind was the town clerks who gave marriage licenses to gay couples. Then I thought about white doctors who treated black patients despite segregation. The difference between these employees and the pharmacists, though, is that they were breaking rules in what you might call a positive way--doing things they were not supposed to do--whereas the pharmacists are negative--not doing what they are supposed to do. This made me feel all warm and fuzzy about how liberals expand rights and possibilities, while conservatives limit them.
However, the town clerk example also can be seen as a protest against the state, while doctors owe allegiance to Hippocrates before the state (or at least, they're supposed to). As well, neither of those examples addresses the status of corporate employees, which is what I presume most pharmacists are.
Then I thought about restaurants, as I often do. If a teetotaling waiter wants to refuse to serve liquor, that's their right. Then they will get fired. Fine, fire the pharmacists. But, a restaurant owned by a teetotaler can refuse to serve liquor, despite the fact that liquor is legal. Probably a bad business move, but that's their choice. So can a private pharmacy refuse to prescribe certain drugs? I don't see why not, though I don't know enough about pharmaceutical rules and regulations to say. In other words, if the pharmacy accepts or even supports the pharmacist's refusal to dispense birth control or the morning-after pill, that's the way it is, though of course, as Alexx points out, our recourse is to boycott the pharmacy, as indeed we should.
I'm sure there's some fuzzy thinking in here, probably a lot, but I wanted to lay out where my thoughts went. When it comes down to it, I'm less angry with the pharmacists than I am with cowardly coporations and the absurd American practice of allowing religion to hobble science.
Monday, May 02, 2005
I have willfully not been paying attention to the anti-birth control pharmacists, though Bitch Ph.D. nailed them almost a week ago. Then yesterday, as usual a good two weeks after a New York Times article on the same topic, Red State Capital City Newspaper had a front page story on pharmacists refusing to dispense the morning after pill, spotlighting Pharmacists for Life International (whose homepage proudly links to lots of articles).
I’m having trouble with this one. The secular science-based feminist in me is going ballistic: This is medicine! This is a woman’s right to receive medical treatment! This is doctor’s prescriptions! This is no place for imposing personal beliefs on workplace responsibilities! This is choice! And I really do believe all those things, passionately.
At the same time, I’m thinking about civil disobedience. I’m thinking about Thoreau, and Woolworth’s sit-ins, and conscientious objectors, and tax resistance. I’m thinking about trespassing at nuclear power plants, and refusing to leave the shanties we built to protest our university’s investments in South Africa. And I know this is what they want me to think, these pharmacists who believe they are standing up for what is right in the face of injustice. I know I’m falling for their appropriation of our rhetoric.
But if I have accepted, a la Thoreau, that “if [injustice] is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law,” can I really stipulate that mine is the only definition of injustice?
Is this hopeless moral relativism? Am I failing the cause? I think these pharmacists are so unethical, so manipulative, so wrong, but that is because I disagree with their position so profoundly. Can I really condemn their tactics? I’m not quite sure.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Me: Yes, but it's Passover and I'm not eating cake.
Secretary: Oh, I'm so sorry, I totally forgot. [pause] There are pretzels too!
I always think that Passover will be a nice opportunity to take a break from my major carbs and sweets addictions and feel a little healthier, maybe even lose a few of those winter pounds. Then I rediscover my nemesis, the most delicious thing ever, more compulsively consumable than salt and vinegar potato chips: matzoh spread with unsalted butter and sprinkled with kosher salt. Mmm.
And then on Thursday, tired of lack of sweets, I made meringues which really deserve a higher Passover profile because they are so delicious and so easy (beat 2 egg whites with 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/8 teaspoon salt till stiff - beat in 3/4 cup sugar - fold in 3/4 cup chocolate chips - put good-sized spoonfuls onto a baking sheet covered with brown paper [I cut up a brown paper bag, because that's how my mother did it] - bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees). More mmm.
Finally, congratulations to M for her first year of full Passover observance, completely self-motivated. She says the only hard parts were lunch at school, surrounded by her friends and their sandwiches, and one day at afterschool when they served pretzels for snack (though the head of her afterschool gets total Red State Capital City Suburb appreciation of diversity points for letting M help her plan the week's snacks, to make sure there would always be something she could eat).